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Navy Commander Schutt

 

JAG Proceedings
 

The proceedings against Sammy Draper were to be in the form of a Summary Court Martial which is a serious trial before a court of three officers and in accordance with the Judge Advocate General (JAG) regulations. Each ship had an officer with the collateral duties of representing the Navy legal establishment and conducting legal proceedings all the way from a simple Captain’s Mast to a Summary Court Martial.

But for the grace of God I would have been that officer. I had held that job for two years and then been relieved because I had too many other duties: I was ship electronics officer in charge of radars, radios, and sonars; assistant ship engineering officer in charge of the ship’s boilers, turbines and generators; I was even mess officer. I insisted on that last position in order to get what I considered edible food. Of course, for all my assignments I had very capable petty officers working under me who were specialists in electronics, engineering, and so forth. In fact, it’s petty officers are the ones responsible for making the Navy work. Working with them was a pleasure once you understood their one big idiosyncrasy: They loved to report failures. “Mr. Jarvis, come below and look at this big pump that just crapped out.” I never understood the obvious pleasure they got out of such reports, as if they were somehow testing me.

But my most important job was that of deck officer. When the ship was underway I was on duty for four hours, commanding the ship and giving orders to the helmsman; I spent eight hours off duty. This occurred around the clock since the ship was underway 24 hours a day. This was a killer job, particularly in rough weather when I couldn’t sleep during the hours I was off watch.

So Lt. J.G. Ken Matson had been chosen to replace me as the Judge Advocate General’s representative on board. Ken was a nice guy, but definitely not a paperwork artist; he was basically a “feather merchant” (what they called non-Annapolis officers)—he hadn’t gotten even the rudimentary legal training you get at Annapolis. Furthermore, what had kept me out of trouble in all the disciplinary actions over which I presided as JAG was the accurate work of Yeoman Sammy Draper who wrote up all the JAG proceedings in perfect legal format. Now Sammy Draper acting as his own defense council was the opposition, and poor Ken Matson (the new JAG) was like a lamb being led to slaughter.

The captain convened the court with three officers from our ship. The senior officer or president of the court was a mustang, Lt. Rule, who had risen from the ranks to become an officer. He was definitely not a paperwork man. What a prescription for disaster. These courts had to be conducted just so, and were all carefully reviewed by Navy lawyers permanently assigned to JAG.

The trial document grew to more than 200 pages and all of it was later thrown out by the reviewing officers because it was “rife with procedural errors.” Sammy Draper had protested all the way through, asked what those dogs were doing there to begin with, and made a mockery of the court. Apparently the highlight of the proceedings was when Paymaster Day, who stuttered badly when under stress, tried under oath to repeat the insubordinate insult. With his blue eyes flashing and his face contorted he repeated Draper’s phrase “Up your g,g,g, ga, ga, giggy with a m,m,m,m, meat hook you m,m,m,m, mor-on.”

The final outcome of the case was that the commodore, who was the immediate superior of my Captain, gave official reprimands to the president of the court, the JAG, and our Captain Schutt. If an officer gets two reprimands he probably will never make admiral; so our Captain at that moment saw his lifelong career go up in flames. Frankly, that is the reason I had never seriously entertained the idea of a career in the service. You just don’t have any control of your own destiny. For that same reason I had decided against the career of politics; for at the the whim of the voters, you could be out of office. I finally chose the only sure thing, having my own company where I had a better chance to succeed by my own efforts.

 
 

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